Aromatic and nutty basmati rice cooked in a Saffron infused broth. This easy and popular side compliments so many dishes around the world. Saffron is a spice that is derived from the core of a flower called, saffron crocus. Each strand of saffron has to be carefully extracted by hand, which makes it the world’s most expensive spice (by weight). That being said, most recipes call for a pinch or two of saffron, so if you invest in a small box, it’ll last a long time.
Saffron adds a deep floral fragrance along with a golden-yellow to a light-crimson color to dishes, depending on the quantity used. The best way to bring out the flavor of Saffron, is to soak it in a warm liquid, like water or milk. In Indian cuisine, Saffron is used in many rice preparations, both sweet and savory. An extremely popular savory meat & rice pilaf, which uses saffron, is Biryani. It is also used in many desserts, like Rava Kesari (Semolina Pudding) and Kheer (Rice Pudding).
Pairing Suggestions: I find Saffron Rice Pilaf to be a pretty versatile side. It goes well with many Indian curries, like Butter Chicken, Lamb Korma, Paneer Tikka Masala, etc, and, pairs beautifully with mediterranean spiced proteins like Chicken Shawarma, or Falafel. I’ve made this recipe with Jasmine rice many times, and it works great with that as well.
In this recipe, I have cooked saffron rice in my electric pressure cooker, Instant Pot , but it can be prepared in any pressure cooker, a rice cooker, microwave, or even on the stove-top. Here are a few tried and tested ways:
Stove-top: Rinse 1 cup of rice 2-3 times, till water runs clear. If you have the time, soak it for 15 minutes, that results in fluffy rice. For one cup of rice, bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Add rinsed and drained rice, salt, ghee or oil, slivered almonds (optional), and saffron, that has been soaking in warm water (see how-to instructions in recipe card). Bring the water to a boil, reduce the heat to medium, cover and cook for 10-12 minutes, till you reach your desired texture.
Microwave: Rinse 1 cup of rice 2-3 times, till water runs clear. If you have the time, soak it for 15 minutes, that results in fluffy rice. In a microwave safe bowl, add drained rice, 2 cups of water (for 1 cup rice), and all other ingredients, and cook it at “rice” mode.
Saffron Rice/ Saffron Rice PilafPrint Recipe
- 1 cup Basmati Rice (or Jasmine Rice)
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ghee or oil
- 1/2 teaspoon Saffron, soaked in 1 tablespoon hot water (I microwave saffron and water for 20-30 seconds)
- 2 tablespoon Slivered Almonds (optional)
- Other optional ingredients
- 1 tablespoon Cashews
- 1 tablespoons Raisins
Prep: Rinse 1 cup of rice 2-3 times, till water runs clear. If you have the time, soak it for 15 minutes, that results in fluffy rice. Take 1/2 teaspoon of saffron in a microwave safe bowl, Using a teaspoon, break down the stems into smaller pieces. Add 1 tablespoon hot water to it, or, add cold water and microwave it for 20-30 seconds. Saffron rice can be prepared two ways in the Instant Pot- Direct pot, or Pot-in-Pot. Here are both ways:
Main Pot Add rinsed and drained rice and all other ingredients in the inner pot. Close lid. Set valve to sealing position. Cook on Manual/Pressure Cook for 6 minutes, OR, Rice mode, which defaults to 12 minutes.
Pot-in-Pot Add all ingredients in any oven safe container. Add 1 cup water, or the recommended quantity, to your inner pot. Place trivet and place the rice bowl on top of that. Close lid. Set valve to sealing position. Cook on Manual/Pressure Cook for 6 minutes, OR, Rice mode, which defaults to 12 minutes.
Wait 10 minutes before manually releasing the pressure (NPR 10). Open lid after pin drops. Using a fork, carefully fluff the rice. Serve with your favorite entree!